The 1960s was a very turbulent decade, filled with hope, cultural change and political movements attempting to change the world. 1968 was an extremely significant year, which saw the explosion of tension that had grown throughout the 60s and among different social movements. The year 1968 is often considered one of the most important years in modern history, particularly in America, as political problems and social agitation reached the surface.

Students across the country were protesting for better education, seizing buildings and walking out of their classes. There were numerous protests against the Vietnam War, and extreme rioting after the death of the Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. 1968 was definitely a turning point year, with many demonstrations taking place among different social movements, and two assassinations that would greatly impact the future of politics and civil rights. 

This timeline takes a look at the main 1968 events that changed the world, showing what happened in 1968 to make the year so significant. To take a look at what big events make the headlines during this eventful year for yourself, read one of our 1968 newspapers.

1968 Timeline

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January 2: Queen Elizabeth II appoints Cecil Day-Lewis as British Poet Laureate.

January 3: Leo Fender sells Fender Guitars to CBS for $13 million.

January 5: Dr Benjamin Spock is indicted for conspiring to violate draft law.

January 5: Antonín Novotný is succeeded by Alexander Dubček as the Communist Party leader in Czechoslovakia.

January 6: The Beatles’ album Magical Mystery Tour goes to number 1 in the charts and stays there for 8 weeks.

January 6: The first US adult cardiac transplant operation is performed by Dr N. E. Shumway.

January 8: Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Terence O’Neill visits Dublin to continue discussions with Irish Prime Minister Jack Lynch about matters of joint interest to the two governments.

January 15: At the age of 87, Jeannette Rankin, a congresswoman from Montana, leads some 5,000 women on a march in Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War. This was very significant to both the anti-war and women’s movement, and joined both movements together.

January 21: A US B-52 bomber with nuclear bomb on board crashes in Greenland.

January 21: One of the most controversial battles of the Vietnam War begins – The Battle of Khe Sanh. 

January 23: A spy ship, USS Pueblo, and 83-man crew are seized in the Sea of Japan by North Korea. One crewman is killed while the rest are imprisoned. The event leads to an 11-month standoff between North Korea and the United States.

January 24: Operation Coburg begins – an Australian and New Zealand military action during the Vietnam War.

January 29: American tennis player Billie Jean King beats home favourite Margaret Court in the Australian Open for her 13th Grand Slam singles title.

January 30: Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese launch the Tet Offensive against South Vietnamese and US forces.

January 31: Nauru declares independence from Australia. 

1968 events

Marines in DaiDo, Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, 1968
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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February 1: Former US Vice President Richard Nixon announces his candidacy for president.

February 1: In American Football, Vince Lombardi steps down as the Green Bay Packers head coach in favour of longtime assistant Phil Bengtson. He stays on as the Packers’ general manager for the year.

February 1: Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a Saigon police chief, executes Viet Cong officer Nguyễn Văn Lém with a pistol shot to the head. Photographer Eddie Adams captures the execution on camera, and it becomes a major anti-war icon. 

February 1: Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, is born in Memphis, Tennessee.

February 1: Echol Cole and Robert Walker, two Memphis sanitation workers, are crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck. Their deaths prompt a strike that becomes part of the civil rights movement.

February 4: Around 100 Indians and Pakistanis arrive in Britain from Kenya, escaping discrimination. 

February 6: In Grenoble, France, the X Winter Olympic Games opens.

February 6: The Dutch 2nd Chamber condemns the United States’ bombing of North Vietnam.

February 7: An American officer tells the Associated Press reporter Peter Arnett that “it became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” This quote becomes printed in newspapers across the United States and became a key catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam War. 

February 8: The Orangeburg Massacre takes place, with highway patrol officers killing 3 students and injuring 27 others demonstrating at South Carolina State University. This is the first student killing by law enforcement in the United States.

February 13: The United States sends 10,500 additional soldiers to Vietnam. 

February 16: The first 911 phone system in the United States goes into service in Haleyville, Alabama.

February 16: Elvis Presley receives a gold record for the album How Great Thou Art. 

February 16: Members of the Beatles George Harrison, John Lennon and their wives fly to India for transcendental meditation study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. 

February 18: Thousands of people in West Berlin demonstrate against the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. 

February 18: David Gilmour joins rock group Pink Floyd. 

February 21: 150,000 people demonstrate against leftist students in West Berlin. 

February 21: Major League Baseball announces a minimum salary of $10,000.

February 22: Rock group Genesis release their first record, Silent Sun. 

February 21: Australian pathologist and pharmacologist who purified penicillin, Howard Florey, dies at the age of 69.

February 23: In basketball, Wilt Chamberlain becomes the first NBA player to score 25,000 points.

February 24: The discovery of the first pulsar is announced by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish. 

February 24: In hockey, Gary Unger begins his NHL consecutive game record of 914 games.

February 24: United States troops reconquer Hue, Vietnam.

February 27: CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite delivers a scathing editorial on America’s chances of winning the Vietnam War. 

February 29: The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band wins the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, becoming the first rock LP to win the award. 

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March 1: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is first performed as a 15 minute pop cantata at Colet Court School in London. 

March 1-8: 15,000 Latino high school students in L.A. walk out of their classes to press their demand for better education.

March 2: English actor Daniel Craig, the star of five James Bond films, is born in Chester, England.

March 4: Martin Luther King Jr. announces plans for the Poor People’s Campaign.

March 5: Czechoslovakia abolishes censorship, which is a significant step forward in the country’s expansion of freedom during the Prague Spring and irritating the Soviet Union.  

March 7: For the first time, the BBC broadcasts the news in colour on television. 

March 8: In Hagerstown, Maryland, 6 year old Tommy Moore scores a hole in one in golf. 

March 8: Students demonstrate in Warsaw, Poland. 

March 10: North Vietnamese and communist Laotian troops overrun a secret US radar facility, Lima Site 85, on a Laos mountaintop. 

March 11: Dmitri Shostakovich completes his 12nd string quartet.

March 11: For his single Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding becomes the first person in the United States to posthumously receive the gold record. 

March 15: The British Foreign Secretary George Brown resigns after having a drunken row with Prime Minister Harold Wilson. 

March 15: Jimi Hendrix is called the “most spectacular guitarist in the world” by LIFE magazine.

March 15: An uprising in South Yemen takes place.

March 16: 1968’s famous events definitely include the My Lai massacre that occurred on this day. In one of the most controversial incidents of the Vietnam War, American soldiers kill 400 unarmed Vietnamese civilians.

March 16: Robert F. Kennedy announces his presidential campaign. 

March 16: General Motors produces its 100 millionth automobile, the Oldsmobile Toronto. 

March 17: The Bee Gees make their first television debut in the United States on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing To Love Somebody and Words. 

March 19: At Howard University in Washington D.C., students seize the administration building in an attempt to gain a greater voice in student discipline and the curriculum. 

March 20: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs a bill removing gold backing from U.S. paper money. 

March 21: Portuguese socialist Mário Soares banished to Sao Tomé, having been arrested by secret police under dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

March 22: A student riot takes place in Nanterre, near Paris. 

March 27: Sukano is succeeded by Suharto as the president of Indonesia.

March 30: Canadian singer Celine Dion is born in Charlemagne, Quebec. 

March 31: In an address to the nation, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection. 

March 31: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorises a troop surge in Vietnam, bringing the total number of United States soldiers to a peak of 549, 500.

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April 2: The Beatles form Python Music Ltd. 

April 2: U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy wins the Democratic primary in Wisconsin. 

April 2: The film 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, premieres at the Uptown Theater in Washington D.C. 

April 3: North Vietnam agrees to meet United States representatives to set up preliminary peace talks. 

April 3: The United States-wide premiere of Planet of the Apes takes place.

April 3: 1,000 men in the United States return their draft cards to government offices all over the country. 

April 4: One of the biggest events that happened in 1968 – Martin Luther King Jr., United States civil rights activist, is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His assassination leads to riots in more than 100 cities in the United States.

April 6: 94.5% of East German voters approve of the new socialist constitution. 

April 6: A gas and gunpowder explosion occurs at a sporting goods store in Richmond, Indiana, killing 41 people and injuring more than 150. 

April 8: The 40th Academy Awards ceremony is postponed to April 10th due to the death of Martin Luther King Jr. 

April 8: Baseball’s Opening Day in the U.S. is postponed due to the death of Martin Luther King Jr. 

April 8: The new socialist constitution of East Germany takes effect. 

April 8: Gangsters Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke commit the Air France robbery, stealing $420,000. 

April 9: Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral takes place, and he is buried in Atlanta. There were deadly riots in the days between his death and his funeral.

April 11: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act, which bans discrimination in housing on the basis of race, colour, religion or national origin. This marks the last of the landmark Civil Rights laws he signed. 

April 20: Pierre Trudeau is sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of Canada.

April 23: Five buildings at Columbia University are taken over by students and they briefly hold a dean hostage in a call to the university to cut its ties to military research. 

April 24: Mauritius becomes a member state of the United Nations.

1968 timeline

Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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May 6: A riot takes place between more than 5,000 university students and the police in Paris. Workers throughout France are staging sympathy strikes within a week after the riot, which threatens the French economy. 

May 8: American novelist William Styron wins the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Confessions of Nat Turner. 

May 8: Italian tennis star Omar Camporese is born in Bologna, Italy. 

May 10: Vietnam peace talks begin in Paris between the United States and North Vietnam. 

May 11: Actor and singer Richard Harris releases his single MacArthur Park.

May 12: American skateboarder Tony Hawk is born in Carlsbad, California.  

May 13: One million French citizens demonstrate against President of France Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou. 

May 14: The Czech government announces liberalising reforms under Alexander Dubček.

May 14: Andreas Baader, leader of the Red Army Faction in Germany, is sentenced to three years in West Berlin. 

May 15: Wonderwall, the film with George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music album as the soundtrack, premieres at the Cannes Film Festival. The soundtrack was the first solo album released by a member of the Beatles.

May 15: Paul McCartney and John Lennon appear on the Johnny Carson Show to promote Apple records, with Joe Garagiola as a substitute host. 

May 20: Terence O’Neill, the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, is hit with eggs, flours and stones after a meeting of the Woodvale Unionist Association, a loyalist vigilante group. 

May 24: Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull are arrested for drug possession. 

May 24: French president Charles de Gaulle proposes a referendum and students in France set fire to Paris Bourse.

May 25: The Rolling Stones release their single Jumpin’ Jack Flash. 

May 27: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 7-1 that burning a draft card is not an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment. 

May 28: U.S. Senator Euguene McCarthy wins the Democratic primary in Oregon. 

May 28: Kylie Minogue, Australian actress and singer, is born in Melbourne, Victoria. 

May 29: The European Cup Final takes place in Wembley Stadium, London. Bobby Charlton scores twice as Manchester United beats Benfica 4-1, making Manchester United the first English team to win the trophy.

May 30: The Beatles begin working on their only double album Beatles. 

May 30: French president Charles de Gaulle disbands the French parliament. 

May 30: The West German Parliament accepts emergency crisis law. 

May 31: Movie star James Stewart retires from the United States Air Force after 27 years of service.

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June 1: Simon and Garfunkel’s single Mrs. Robinson from the film The Graduate hits number 1 in the charts, and is the first rock song to win a Grammy for Record of the Year.

June 1: Helen Keller, an American political activist, author and lecturer dies at the age of 87. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a BA. 

June 3: The Poor People’s March on Washington D.C. takes place.

June 3: Valerie Solanas, an American radical feminist, attempts to assassinate pop artist Andy Warhol by shooting him three times. Later, she is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and pleads guilty to ‘reckless assault with intent to harm’, serving a three year sentence. 

June 5: Robert F. Kennedy is shot three times by Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan, who also wounds 5 others at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. 

June 6: Death of Robert F. Kennedy from his wounds after being shot the night before. 

June 7: Sirhan Sirhan is indicted for the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. 

June 7: The body of Robert F. Kennedy lies in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. 

June 8: The alleged assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., James Earl Ray, is captured in London and is extradited to the United States. He pleads guilty but later recants, dying 30 years later of liver failure in prison. 

June 8: Robert F. Kennedy’s body is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

June 9: President of Yugoslavia, Tito, promises reforms in the country.

June 10: American comedian and podcaster Bill Burr is born in Canton, Massachusetts. 

June 15: John Lennon and Yoko Ono plant an acorn at Coventry Cathedral. 

June 18: The U.S. Supreme Court bans racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing. 

June 19: 50,000 people participate in the Solidarity Day March of Poor People’s Campaign. 

June 20: Jim Hines becomes the first person to run 100 metres in under 10 seconds. 

June 20: The Nationalist Member of Parliament (MP) at Stormont, Austin Currie, along with other Irish civil rights activists, protest discrimination in the allocation of housing by ‘squatting’ (illegally occupying) in a house in Caledon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

June 20: American director Robert Rodriguez is born in San Antonio, Texas. 

June 21: The U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren resigns. 

June 23: A football stampede towards a closed exit in a Buenos Aires stadium kills 74 people and injures 150. 

June 24: Resurrection City in Washington D.C. is permanently closed.

June 25: English comedian and actor Tony Hancock commits suicide at the age of 44. 

June 26: Iwo Jima and Bonin Islands are returned to Japan by the United States.

June 28: Daniel Ellsberg is indicted for leaking the Pentagon Papers.

June 30: The East German Communist Leader Walter Ulbricht receives the Order of October Revolution.

events that happened in 1968

Robert F. Kennedy appearing before the Platform Committee in 1964
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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July 1: John Lennon’s first full art exhibition takes place, entitled You Are Here. 

July 1: The Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty is signed by the United States, Britain, the USSR and 58 other nations. It was an international treaty with the aim of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. 

July 5: John Lennon sells his psychedelic-painted Rolls Royce. 

July 5: American businesswoman and CEO of YouTube Susan Wojcicki, referred to as ‘the most important person in advertising’, is born in Santa Clara County, California. 

July 6: American tennis player Billie Jean King bears Judy Tegart to earn the first ever prize money of £750 offered at Wimbledon. 

July 7: The rock group Yardbirds break up. 

July 9: In American basketball, Wilt Chamberlain becomes the first reigning NBA MVP to be traded the next season when he moves from the Philadelphia 76’ers to the Los Angeles Lakers.

July 10: The United States Major League Baseball announces it will split into two divisions in 1969. 

July 17: The Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine premieres in London. 

July 18: The Intel Corporation is founded in Santa Clara, California. 

July 20: On live television, Jane Asher breaks her engagement with Paul McCartney. 

July 20: At Chicago’s Soldier Field, the first Special Olympics opens with more than 1000 athletes with intellectual disabilities competing in 200 events.

July 23: The Glenville Shootout takes place in Cleveland between black militants and police, leaving three dead on each side, plus one bystander. Riots continue in the city for 5 days.

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August 8: A Republican convention in Miami Beach nominates Richard Nixon for president. 

August 11: The Fifteen Guinea Special is the last mainline steam passenger train service in Britain. A selection of British Rail steam locomotives make an 120-mile return journey from Liverpool to Carlisle, before they have their fires dropped for the very last time. 

August 20: During the night, 250,000 Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops invade Czechoslovakia in response to the Prague Spring. 

August 21: Marine James Anderson becomes the first African American to win the Medal of Honour after he died covering an enemy grenade to protect fellow Marines during a firefight in Vietnam. 

August 21: The Warsaw Pact forces complete their invasion of Czechoslovakia by arresting the Czech leader Alexander Dubček and forcing him to sign the Moscow Protocols. 

August 22: Cynthia Lennon, the first wife of John Lennon, sues John Lennon for divorce on grounds of adultery. 

August 23: Ringo Starr temporarily quits the Beatles over a disagreement. 

August 24: France becomes the world’s fifth thermonuclear power with a detonation on Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific. 

August 24: The first civil rights march is held in Northern Ireland. Many more marches would be held over the following year and Loyalists organised counter-demonstrations to get the marches banned. 

August 25: Arthur Ashe is the first African American to win the United States singles Tennis championship. 

August 26: Hey Jude is released by the Beatles. It becomes Billboard Song of the Year 1968, and the Billboard 10th biggest song of all time in 2013. It is the first Beatles single issued on their Apple label and at more than 7 minutes, it became the longest song to hit number 1 on the Billboard’s Hot 100.

August 28: Police and anti-war demonstrators clash at Chicago’s Democratic National Convention. Police and Illinois National Guardsmen go on a rampage, clubbing and tear-gassing hundreds of anti-war demonstrators, and much of the violence is broadcast on national television.

August 30: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s One on One benefit for children takes place at Madison Square Garden, New York. 

soviet invasion of czechoslovakia

A crowd of protesters surrounding Soviet tanks during the first days of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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September 1: An earthquake destroys Ferdows, Persia, killing 2000 people. 

September 7: Feminists protest the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

September 8: The biopic film Funny Girl based on the life of Fanny Brice premieres, directed by William Wyler.

September 9: Arthur Ashe wins the U.S. Open, making him the first black man to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament. 

September 13: Albania withdraws from the Warsaw Pact.

September 25: American actor and rapper Will Smith is born in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

September 26: Theatre censorship ends in Britain. 

September 28: The Beatles’ single Hey Jude reaches number 1 in the charts and stays there for 9 weeks. 

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October 7: The Motion Picture Association of America adopts the film rating system. 

October 7: Rioting continues in Derry, Northern Ireland after Royal Ulster Constabulary put down a civil rights march two days earlier. 

October 12: Australian actor and singer Hugh Jackman is born in Sydney, Australia.

October 14: Opening of the rebuilt Euston railway station in London.

October 17: The film Bullitt, directed by Peter Yates and starring Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset is first released. 

October 18: The Circus Circus hotel opens in Las Vegas, making it the largest permanent big top in the world.

October 18: Police find 219 grains of cannabis resin in John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s apartment, and the two are fined £150 for marijuana possession. 

October 18: The United States Olympic Committee suspends Tommie Smith and John Carlos for giving the ‘black power’ salute as a protest during the victory ceremony. 

October 19: The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco only charges tolls for southbound cars. 

October 22: Apollo 7 returns to Earth. 

October 25: Yoko Ono announces that she’s having John Lennon’s baby.

October 26: The first European satellite, Esro 1, is launched at Cape Kennedy.

October 31: With progress in the Paris peace talks, President Lyndon B. Johnson orders a halt to “all air, naval and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam,” effective from the following day.

apollo 7

The prime crew on Apollo 7, May 22 1968
Image: Wikipedia

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November 4: The Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O’Neill meets the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson for talks about Northern Ireland. Wilson states that no change of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is possible without the consent of the people.

November 5: The Republican candidate Richard Nixon is elected President of the United States, defeating Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey and Independent candidate George Wallace.

November 5: Shirley Crisholm of New York becomes the first black woman elected to the United States House of Representatives.

November 9: After 267 years, Yale University makes the decision to admit female undergraduates, effective from 1969. 

November 10: Portuguese socialist Mário Soares is released from banishment in Sao Tomé under the new regime of Marcello Caetano.

November 11: The Maldives becomes a republic. 

November 12: The U.S. Supreme Court decision Epperson v. Arkansas results in the court declaring unconstitutional the law in Arkansas which bans the teaching of evolution in public schools. 

November 22: Terence O’Neill, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, announces a package of reform measures granting concessions to the Catholic minority in response to the protest movement. 

November 25: American author Upton Beall Sinclair dies at the age of 90.

November 28: English children’s author Enid Blyton dies at the age of 71. 

November 29: John Lennon and Yoko Ono release their first album Two Virgins in the United Kingdom. 

November 30: A Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association March in Armagh is stopped by Royal Ulster Constabulary because of the presence of a Loyalist counter demonstration led by Ian Paisley and Ronald Bunting. 

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December 2: U.S. President Richard Nixon names Henry Kissinger security advisor. 

December 3: Elvis Presley begins a comeback from years of torpor and schlock with a 1-hour special on NBC-TV.

December 4: After a civil rights march in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, a violent crash occurs between Loyalists and those who are taking part in the march. 

December 9: Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O’Neill makes a television appeal for moderate opinion in what became known as the Ulster Stands at the Crossroads speech. 

December 10: Joe Frazier defeats Oscar Bonavena in 15 for the heavyweight boxing title. 

December 10: The biggest heist in Japan, the still-unresolved “300 million yen robbery” occurs in Tokyo. 

December 10: French-American Catholic writer and Trappist monk Thomas Merton dies at the age of 53 after being accidentally electrocuted by an electric fan. 

December 12: Arthur Ashe becomes the first black man to be ranked number 1 in tennis. 

December 20: Betty Lou Jenson and David Faraday are killed by the Zodiac Killer in Vallejo, California. 

December 20: American author John Steinbeck dies at the age of 66.

December 21: Apollo 8 is launched, with Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders.

December 23:  Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders become the first men to orbit the Moon. 

December 24: Ballon d’Or takes place: Manchester United’s winger George Best wins the award for the best European football player ahead of his team mate Bobby Charlton and Red Star Belgrade winger Dragan Džajić; first Northern Irish national to win the award.

December 25: 42 Dalits are burned alive in Kilvenmani village, Tamil Nadu, India, in a retaliation for a campaign for higher wages by Dalit labourers.

December 26: Led Zeppelin’s concert debut in Denver takes place when they open for Vanilla Fudge. 

December 26: In hockey, Ted Green sets the NHL penalty record of 3 minors, 2 majors and 2 game misconducts in a game against the New York Rangers in New York’s Madison Square Garden. 

December 28: 100,000 people attend the Miami Pop Festival. 

December 28: The Beatles’ White Album goes to number 1 in the charts and stays there for 9 weeks. 

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Why Was 1968 So Significant?

As you can see from our timeline, 1968 was a very eventful year, particularly for the United States. It became clear how divided the country was on the Vietnam War and Civil Rights, with events like the Tet Offensive and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. causing the growing tension of the 1960s to reach a peak. It was a year filled with violence and protest as the world grappled with conflict, the Cold War was roaring on, and big events seem to happen one immediately after the other. The year was the result of almost a decade of social protest, and gave revolutionary hope to those wanting change. 1968 is definitely a year to remember, and it holds an important place in modern history.

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The Vietnam War – The Tet Offensive

There were major developments in the Vietnam War in 1968, thirteen years after the war began. The Tet Offensive was a coordinated series of North Vietnamese attacks on more than 100 cities and outposts in South Vietnam, beginning on January 30. The offensive was aiming to foment rebellion among people in South Vietnam, as well as prompt the United States to reduce its involvement in the war. Despite the U.S. and South Vietnam succeeding in holding off the attacks, news of the offensive reached the rest of the world and shocked the American public, massively dismantling support for the war effort.

The offensive caused heavy casualties with North Vietnam achieving victories strategically. The bloody and effective attacks shocked U.S. officials, marking a turning point in the war and the start of gradual U.S. withdrawal from the region. While the Vietnam War, and American involvement, continued, the anti-war movement was gaining more momentum as protests and demonstrations continued across the United States. The movement was making more of an impact, while the Tet Offensive was the military spark that pushed the U.S. to look towards withdrawing from the war.

Many months later on October 31, President Lyndon B. Johnson called for a halt to all bombardment of North Vietnam, following his call for peace negotiations earlier in the war. 1968 was definitely an important year for bringing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War to an eventual end.

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Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In an event that sent shockwaves throughout the world, Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader, Baptist minister and founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was assassinated on April 4, 1968. King was standing on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when he was struck in the neck with a sniper’s bullet. Despite being rushed to hospital immediately afterwards, King was pronounced dead an hour after the event at the age of 39. 

King had spent his life committed to gaining racial equality and civil rights for the black population of America. He had been at the forefront of the civil rights movement since the mid-1950s, believing in non-violent demonstration methods and passionate speeches to fight racial segregation and make awareness of black issues. Towards his later years, the criticism towards him from other activists grew, since many believed his non-violent approaches were not making any gains. Radical activists favoured a more confrontational approach and began to follow the black nationalist leader Malcolm X. However, King’s dedication and success to the civil rights movement contributed greatly to the successes of the movement in the mid-20th century.

In the days that followed King’s assassination, riots broke out in more than 100 cities in the United States. There were reports of more than 40 casualties, 3,500 arrests and 27,000 arrests as black communities responded to the devastating news. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared April 7 to be a day of national mourning for the leader, with the opening day of the Major League Baseball season postponed and the Academy Awards telecast suspended. 

His assassin, James Earl Ray, was captured in London on June 8. He pleaded guilty to the assassination and gained a 99-year prison sentence, but later recanted the plea, claiming he was part of a larger conspiracy. The full story of King’s killing remains unknown, but his tragedy definitely solidified his place in a transformative era and led him to become an icon of the civil rights movement. 

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The Prague Spring and Invasion of Czechoslovakia

From 1948 to 1989, Czechoslovakia was a satellite state of the Soviet Union, embodying the USSR’s communist regime that limited freedom for the people. During 1967, students and writers began to complain about the lack of freedom, as well as the bad performance of the Czechoslovak economy under. The Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev ignored the country’s call for support, and in January 1968, Alexandr Dubček took over as the Communist party leader in Czechoslovakia. 

Dubček ’s government began to form an Action Plan to increase freedom for the people, naming it a new form of socialism that removed state control of industries and allowed freedom of speech. This began the Prague Spring, where for four months, Czechoslovakia experienced freedom away from the tight communist regime of the Soviet Union. Dubček was committed to communism but allowed the creation of other political parties, but Brezhnev announced the Brezhnev Doctrine, stating that no Eastern European country could reject communism.

Seeing Czechoslovakia as a threat to the regime, 500,000 Warsaw Pact troops invaded the country, and Dubček and three other leaders were arrested. Instead of fighting back, the people of Czechoslovakia protested by standing in front of the tanks, with one man, Jan Palach, even burning himself to death. Brezhnev put a Russian supporter and leader of the KSC in charge, Gustav Husak, to maintain tight communist control. Czechoslovakia enjoyed a short-lived freedom that created hope for permanent change in the country, before returning to restricted Soviet control until 1989.

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